2017: Year In Review

Updated: December 29, 2017

By Quinton Bagley

Little River News

What a year it has been in Little River County! As we prepare to enter 2018, we feel it is appropriate to look back at some of the highlights of 2017.



Little River County Sheriff Bobby Walraven poses for a photo with the elected official certificate from the state of Arkansas after being sworn in at midnight Sunday, Jan. 1, 2017, at the Little River County Courthouse.

The year began with Bobby Walraven being sworn in as sheriff and Lauren Abney being sworn in as circuit clerk.

Also in January beer and wine went on sale in Little River County after voters approved the county going wet in the November 2016 general election.

The E-Z Mart store on the north side of Ashdown was the first to get beer Thursday, January 19, as the beer trucks rolled into Little River County. On Friday, January 20, they were back to restock according to store manager Karen Mott.

“We have been very busy since Thursday,” Mott said. “We have seen a drastic increase in sales. I had to call and have another shipment brought up the next day.”

Ashdown City Treasurer Kirk Mounts said earlier in the month that this was a big boon for the county and the cities in the county.

“This is a big day for all of Little River County,” Mounts said. “The tax revenue generated from the sale of beer and other alcohol will alleviate some of the financial burden that not only the city has felt but the county as well.”

As of December neither the City of Ashdown nor the county has seen major increase in tax revenue.

Other businesses in the county that have applied to the Arkansas Beverage Control Board (ABC) to get approval to start selling beer and small farm wine. Those businesses are E-Z Mart South in Ashdown, Wal-Mart, Brookhire’s, Roadway Food Mart (Exxon), Hooked Up Bait & More and The Wolf Pack in Winthrop.



Surrounded by Little River County elected officials and other local and state dignitaries, Judge John C. Finley III, president of the Little River County Historical Society, gives a brief account of the formation of the Little River County and its history.

It was a day of speeches, music, dancing and celebration Friday, March 3, as more than 1,000 people attended the Little River County Sesquicentennial event on the courthouse lawn in Ashdown.

“It was great day and we were blessed with beautiful weather,” Little River County Judge Mike Cranford said. “Everyone I talked to on Friday said they had a great time and commended all those who worked so hard to make it a great success.”

Local and state dignitaries were in attendance. Arkansas Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin addressed the crowd during the opening festivities. He told the crowd that since he had to get up so early to get from his home in Little Rock to Ashdown that he was going to eat a corn dog or funnel cake for breakfast. He went ahead to say that places like Little River County are what makes Arkansas and the United States great.

State Senator Jimmy Hickey Jr. and State Representative DeAnn Vaught both made presentations. Hickey presented Cranford with a citation from the Arkansas State Senate and Vaught presented a citation from the Arkansas State House of Representatives commemorating the county’s 150th anniversary. Cara Cox presented a letter read on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives by Congressman Bruce Westerman.

A stone monument was unveiled commemorating the county’s sesquicentennial. The stone was donated by Linda Duke, Charlie Duke built the stand and Steven Benton, Linda Benton, and Larry Benton of Benton Monument Works did the engraving.

Also elected officials from Little River County’s sister counties – Hempstead and Sevier – were on hand for the occasion.

Between speeches and presentations, the crowd was entertained by local talent including Joe Mack Bennett, Laiken Newton, Maddie McAlister, Ashdown’s Purple Pride Marching Band, the Foreman High School Band and several school groups. There were also several period dance workshops for the crowd to participate in.

Vendors were set up around the courthouse lawn with a large variety of items on display or for sale. Guest could ‘pet’ a baby alligator or buy goodies from the different vendors.

On Wednesday, March 8, the Little River County Sheriff’s Office assisted the Texarkana (Ark.) Police Department in locating the body of murder victim Crystal Reed.

“Chief Deputy Kevin Sanders received a call on Wednesday morning from the Texarkana Police Department requesting our assistance in searching for and recovering the body of a murder victim,” Little River County Sheriff Bobby Walraven said. “They told us that they had the suspect in custody and that the body was buried in the woods near East Ogden.”

Tony Taylor, a 56-year-old male, confessed that there had been a physical altercation during the late evening hours of Monday, March 6, and that during this altercation, he had stabbed Reed in the chest with a knife, and that she died as a result of that injury. Taylor led police to a remote wooded area east of Ogden, Ark., where he buried her body in a shallow grave. Taylor was returned to the Bi State Justice Building and placed under arrest and charged with 1st degree murder and tampering with physical evidence.

Reed’s body was sent to Madden Funeral Home in Ashdown, Ark., where Little River County Coroner Roddy Smith maintained custody pending autopsy at the Arkansas State Crime Lab Medical Examiner’s Office.

Arkansas Game & Fish Cpl. Blake Broomfield was one of the nine wildlife officers and one wildlife management technician honored by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission for their dedicated service to the natural resources and the people of Arkansas during its Fourth Annual Enforcement Awards Banquet in Little Rock on March 14.

Broomfield was honored with the Warden’s Cross Award, the highest honor given by the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission. The honor is bestowed to wildlife officers who, through their actions, demonstrate extraordinary courage that sets themselves apart from other enforcement officers.

Glenn Derricks is escorted in the Little River County Jail by Sheriff Bobby Walraven and Arkansas State Trooper J.D. Jones on Tuesday, March 21, after being located and arrested in the Ashdown City Park. Derricks fired several shots at an Ashdown Police Officer following a traffic stop on Monday, March 20. He has been charged with attempted capital murder, terroristic act, possession of firearms by certain persons and felony with firearm. He was scheduled to be arraigned Tuesday, March 28, at the Little River County Courthouse in Ashdown.

Glenn Lee Derricks appeared before Ninth Circuit Court Judge Charles Yeargan at the Little River County Courthouse on Tuesday, March 28. Derricks, 24 of Dallas, Texas, is charged with attempted capital murder, terroristic act, possession of firearms by certain persons and felony with firearm. He pled not guilty to all charges.

The charges stem from shooting at an Ashdown Police Department officer and then fleeing following a traffic stop on Monday, March 20.

According to a report from the Ashdown Police Department, Derricks fired several shots at APD Officer Darren Black following a traffic stop in the revenue office parking lot on West Main Street. Black initiated the stop after confirming the car was the same one in a BOLO out of Howard County that stated a black male had forced a female into the car at gun point.

According to the report, Derricks got out of the passenger side of the vehicle and fired several rounds, some of them striking the officer’s patrol car, before fleeing north behind the revenue office.

The driver of the car, Khadijah Johnson, 22, of Ashdown, was transported to the Little River County Sheriff’s Office for questioning. There she told APD Captain Boyd Kennemore that Derricks said he was going to shoot at the officer when they stopped the vehicle. Johnson stated that she told him not to but when the vehicle stopped he got out of the car and started shooting.

The search for Derricks continued late into the night and the next day as officers from the Ashdown Police Department, Little River County Sheriff’s Office, Arkansas State Police, Arkansas Game & Fish and the De Queen Police Department K-9 all assisted in the search.

The search ended just after 1:30 p.m. Tuesday March 21, when Derricks was located and arrested at the Ashdown City Park by local and state law enforcement officers.



Ashdown Superintendent Jason Sanders (center) was inducted into the Southern Arkansas University Educational Leadership Hall of Fame on Thursday, April 13, 2017. Pictured with Sanders is Dr. Trey Berry, president of SAU and Kelsie Madison, 2017 Miss SAU.

Ashdown Superintendent Jason Sanders was one of four area educators inducted into the Educational Leadership Hall of Fame at Southern Arkansas University on Thursday, April 13, 2017. In addition to Sanders, other inductees were John ‘Skipper’ Ward, superintendent of Magnolia schools and former superintendent at Horatio; DeMarcus Green, principal, Kilpatrick Elementary School in Texarkana, Ark.; and Jody Vines, principal, Washington Middle School in El Dorado.

Sanders was first to be inducted. He received his BSE as well as his ME from SAU. His background includes serving as principal at Foreman High School and superintendent at Foreman. He has served as superintendent at Ashdown since 2014.

“I would not be where I am, or who I am, without SAU,” Sanders told the audience. He thanked numerous professors and administrators in propelling him forward in his career. “I’ll put my education up against anybody’s. I am very humbled and honored to receive this honor.”
Ashdown High School was recognized in 2014 and 2015 by U.S. News and World Report as one of the “Most Challenging High Schools in the United States” in reference to Ashdown’s success with Advanced Placement test participation and achievement. The district has 1,400 students.



The City of Ashdown was saddened to learn May 2, that local business man Tommy Green, 68, had died from injuries sustained in a fall after being knocked out of the bucket of his truck by a tree he was cutting. Green owned and operated TLG Enterprises, a landscaping and tree-trimming service in Ashdown.

Bro. Jim Cross, pastor at the First United Methodist Church in Ashdown and Richmond said that Green loved the Lord and showed it in his everyday life.

“I have no idea how many people he has helped over the years,” Cross said. “He loved people and he loved life. He was passionate about a lot of things. He was one of those church members who wanted to help and serve. He went on a few mission trips and Tommy went along. He was in his element then. He loved to talk about God. He did everything at full speed and with lots of passion.”

Also in May, Diamond Bank, headquartered in Glenwood, Ark., expanded services for their Ashdown customers with construction of a new full-service branch located at 1710 South Constitution Avenue.

Diamond Bank entered the Ashdown market in 2014 with a loan production office in the Jackson Square Shopping Center.



Foreman native Hannah Burrow competed in the Miss Arkansas pageant in June.

Foreman native Hannah Burrow was one of the many beauties from the Natural State competing for the title of Miss Arkansas week of June 10-17 in Little Rock.

Burrow is the daughter of Chad and Rachelle Burrow and a 2011 graduate of Foreman High School. She is a graduate of the University of Central Arkansas in Conway with a Bachelor’s of Science in nutrition. She graduated in August with a Master’s degree in Family & Consumer Sciences.

She competed in the Miss Arkansas pageant as the current Miss Central Arkansas.

Also in June, Sansom Ranch, owned by Dale and Carmen Sansom, and Lick Creek Land & Cattle, Inc., owned by their daughter, Jennifer Sansom earned the honor of Little River County Farm Family of the Year. This is the second time Dale and Carmen has been named Little River County Farm Family of the Year. The first was in 1988.



Little River Arts Council’s 14th annual MidSummer Art Show once again “wowed” the public with its large array of paintings and 3-Dimensional artwork. The show was held at Cossatot Community College University of Arkansas’s Ashdown campus in the Barbara Horn Civic Center. The three-day show ran from Thursday through Saturday, July 14-16. Artists from Texas, Arkansas and Oklahoma entered their work in eight categories – Abstract/Contemporary, Animal, Genre, Floral, Landscape, Portrait, Still Life and 3-D. Artists in the adult show entered 153 works, while those in the youth show entered 82 works.

D-Eon Priest, who passed away in 2013, was the featured artist this year. His wife, K-K Priest, furnished selections of her husband’s work in painting and engraving, and the exhibition was arranged by Katrina Williamson and Lisa Davis.

A reception on Saturday, catered by Heavenly Sweets and featured fancy hors d’oeuvres, desserts, and drinks.

Winners in the youth show included:

Best of Show Fischer Alexander for “Slacker;”

In the Age 8-9 division, 1st Place Natalie Ney for “Bei Bei,” 2nd Place Valeria Camarillo for “Black Horse,” 3rd Place Natalie Ney for “Kit Kat,” and Honorable Mention Anna Claire Barr for “Rainbow Pots;”

In the Age 10-11 division, 1st Place Riley White for “Best Friends,” 2nd Place Wyatt Harness for “A Pear to Eat,” 3rd Place Mia Garate for “GRRR,” and Honorable Mention Mia Garate for “Ms. Rapper;”

In the Age 12-13 division, 1st Place Lydia Clark for “Finding Myself,” 2nd Addison Barr for “Whimsical View,” 3rd Place Brooke Morrow for “Fisherman’s Journey,” and Honorable Mention Breece Berryhill for “Snow Seal;”

In the Age 14-15 division, 1st Place Samantha Knowles for “Brain Garden,” 2nd Place Kaiolahio Sooman for “Untitled,” 3rd Place Caleb Corbin for “Bottles & Reflection,” and Honorable Mention Kaiolahio Sooman for “Broken Bike;”

In the Age 16-17 division, 1st Place Christie Sain for “Purple Mountain.”

Winners in the adult show included:

Best of Show Carol Hale Bybee for “Serenity;”

In the Abstract/Contemporary category, 1st Place Nancy Hall Martin for “Out on a Limb,” 2nd Place Elizabeth Saelim for “Many Emotions,” 3rd Place Donna Powell for “Old Farm Tree,” and Honorable Mention Kalee Gafford for “Inner Workings;”

In the Animal category, 1st Place Sharon Cromer for “Evening Shadows,” 2nd Place Kalee Gafford for “Read the Directions,” 3rd Place Jeannie Knod Edwards for “Spice,” and Honorable Mention Terri de Natale for “Steven’s Farm Chickens;”

In the Genre’ category, 1st Place Jeannie Knod Edwards for “Deep Thoughts,” 2nd Place Tommy Allen for “Clan Series VI,” 3rd place Ruby Gildon for “Saddle Up Time,” and Honorable Mention Linda Larey for “Dribble Dribble;”

In the Floral category, 1st Place Carla Myane for “Garden Secrets,” 2nd Place Ronnie Sladovnik for “Asters,” 3rd Place Nancy Hall Martin for “Garden Gold,” and Honorable Mention Mary Jane Orr for “My Favorite Iris;”

In the Landscape category, 1st Place Kay McAdams for “A Peaceful Spot,” 2nd Place Linda Larey for “Dawn,” 3rd Place Kay McAdams for “Florentine Garden,” and Honorable Mention Anita P. Stevenson for “Bois de Arc Tree at Sunrise;”

In the Portrait category, 1st Place Terri de Natale for “Steady,” 2nd Place Linda Larey for “Ageless,” 3rd Place Tommy Allen for “Daughter of Otter,” and Honorable Mention Cathy Van Herpen for “Molly Kate;”

In the Still Life category, 1st Place Mary Jane Orr for “Color Me Happy,” 2nd Place Carol Flori for “High Summer,” 3rd Place Eileen Stearman for “Summer Heat,” and Honorable Mention Victoria Autrey for “Ornamental Cabbage;”

In the 3-D category, 1st Place Darrell Whisenhunt for “Tested by Fire,” 2nd Place Carol Means for “Too Many Miles,” 3rd Place Roger Tipton for “Twisted Bowl,” and Honorable Mention Jana Edwards for “Persai.”

Also in July, three Sevier County residents, Joshua King, 20, Brady Winship, 19, and Tenescha Wilkerson, 18, appeared before Judge Tom Cooper in the Little River Circuit Court on Tuesday, July 18, to hear accusations related to the death of 19-year-old Desmond Smith and the injuring of 19-year-old Samari Covington, both of Ashdown.

The three suspects, as well as a juvenile whose name has not been released, are facing charges of felony drive-by shooting, murder and first-degree battery. Bryan Chesshir, Ninth Circuit Prosecutor, said investigators believe the murder was gang-related. No motive has been released.

According to a press release from the Ashdown Police Department, officers were dispatched to a shooting at 1:04 a.m., Sunday, July 16. Two individuals, Smith and Covington, were injured and taken to Little River Memorial Hospital by private vehicle.

Smith was pronounced dead a short time later from an apparent gunshot wound to the chest area. Covington was transferred to a Texarkana hospital for treatment of an apparent gunshot wound to the arm.

According to initial reports, several people in a red Dodge Charger came by the Washington Street home looking for one of the residents. They were told to leave by a relative who suspected they were there to fight.

Two guests, Smith and Covington, went out to the vehicle where multiple shots were fired from inside the vehicle striking Smith and Covington as well as two parked cars. The Dodge Charger then drove away. A witness identified one of the car’s occupants as King.

Officers recovered several 9mm shell casings at the scene and notified surrounding law enforcement agencies.

The suspects were apprehended by Sevier County deputies and officers with the De Queen Police Department several hours after the shooting incident early Sunday morning. The four occupants of the vehicle were detained without incident.



In August, the Little River County Quorum Court voted 5-3 to purchase the First Guaranty Building from the Babb family.

On Monday, August 7, the Little River County Quorum Court voted 5-3 to purchase the First Guaranty Insurance Building from Kirk Babb for $423,000 with $340,000 being in cash and the other $83,000 being donated to the county by Babb.

Justice of the Peace Al Austin made a passionate plea to the other members of the Court to not purchase the building at that price stating that he felt it was irresponsible for the court to purchase the building at the current offered price since previous appraisals had determined the value of the building to be lower.

“We have a fiduciary obligation to our citizens to spend their money in a way that makes sense,” Austin told the Court.

After more discussion and a 15-minute recess, JP Larry Cowling made a motion to purchase the building at the current asking price. The motion was seconded by JP Keith Pullen. The court then voted by roll call with Cowling, Pullen, Bobby Furlow, Gene Smithson and Charles Henderson voting yes and Austin, Billy Bob Pounds and Chuck Davis voting no.

Following the meeting Austin said that he, Pounds and Davis were not against purchasing the building but that they were against the asking price thinking that it was excessive.

On Wednesday, August 16, the Arkansas Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission selected two applicants – Geraldine Haskins of Jerry’s Drive-In and Ralph C. Brainerd Jr. of Bogey’s – to receive a permit allowing the construction of a liquor store in Little River County. The Arkansas ABC Commission approved both permits unanimously, 5-0.

Under Arkansas law, only one permit may be issued for every 5,000 people living in the county as of the last census (2010). Little River County qualifies for two liquor stores.

John Hall was hired as principal at Foreman High School in August. Hall had served the district the previous eight years as coach and teacher.

Also in August, John Hall was hired as the new principal at Foreman High School.

For the previous eight years Hall had served the Foreman School District as a coach and a teacher but when former FHS Principal Kim Cody resigned earlier in summer to take another position, the Foreman School Board hired Hall to fill the vacancy.

“There has been a learning curve on a lot of things so far,” Hall said. “I am super lucky and super proud to have been part of this district and community for so long that I think this transition period will be relatively smooth.”

Arvest Bank announced August 22 it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Bear State Financial, Inc., the parent company of Bear State Bank. The acquisition, expected to close in the fourth quarter of 2017 or first quarter of 2018 pending customary regulatory approvals and subject to approval by Bear State shareholders, is an all-cash transaction valued at approximately $391 million.

A full conversion of systems and accounts will occur in 2018. Additionally, all those employed by Bear State on the date of contract closing will become employees of Arvest Bank.

New communities Arvest looks forward to serving in Arkansas are: Ashdown, De Queen, Dierks, Glenwood, Jonesboro, Manila, Monette, Mount Ida, Nashville and Waldron.



Voters in the Ashdown School District voted “NO” to a proposed millage increase of 3.9 mills in a special election on Sept. 19, 677-564.

The Ashdown School Board was asking voters to once again consider the increase for new construction and renovation. The project included demolition of the C.D. Franks campus, adding 62,000 square feet of new construction as well as renovation to Margaret Daniel and $500,000 worth renovation Ashdown Junior High.

“In our three-year master plan, the Board has set aside eight goals that they want to see achieved in that time frame,” Ashdown Superintendent Jason Sanders said. “At the very top of that list is improving facilities.”

The cost of the proposed construction was $15.5 million after state partnership money of $810,000 would have been applied.

The 11th annual Ashdown High School Alumni Banquet was held on Saturday, September 30, at the Ashdown High School Cafeteria.

This year’s honored guest was Kent Wells an AHS class of 1981 graduate and a veteran musician, songwriter, performer and acclaimed producer who has toured and recorded with Dolly Parton, Reba McEntire, Kenny Rogers, Brooks and Dunn, Travis Tritt, Oak Ridge Boys, Lee Greenwood and Keith Whitley.

He is the son of Coylene Wells Cates and the late Billy Jack Wells. He is married to Donna Gwin Wells, also a 1981 AHS graduate.

Long-time friend and country superstar Dolly Parton also attended the banquet and sang a few songs for those in attendance.

Following the banquet, an After Party was held at the Garrison Air Strip in Wilton. The After Party was an opportunity for Wells to perform with some old friends and family members. The After Party featured several local entertainers including Joe Mack Bennett, who sang a duet with Parton.



The Barbara Horn Civic Center on the Ashdown campus of the University of Arkansas-Cossatot was the site of the annual Little River County Chamber of Commerce Awards Banquet on Thursday, Nov. 2. Guest and honorees alike enjoyed the great food, fun and fellowship while honoring just a few of the best and the county has to offer.

The highlight of the night, as is always the case, was the presentation of the awards. Three new awards were added this year. The first was for the Best Display Award at the Chamber’s recent trunk-or-treat event at the Pocket Park in Ashdown. That award went to Pleasant Manor Nursing and Rehab.

The second new award was for the Best Business-Themed Table Centerpiece at the banquet. That award was presented to Farm Credit Services of Western Arkansas.
The third new award, the Most Beautiful Table Award, went to The Gift Box.

With the new awards presented, the traditional awards were next. First up was Foreman School District Teacher of the Year. This year’s recipient was Lacey Hall.

Next was the Ashdown School District Teacher of the Year Award. This year’s winner was Mandi Molock. In addition to their award from the Chamber, Hall and Molock were also presented citation from the Arkansas House of Representatives by State Rep. DeAnn Vaught.

The award for Business Restoration went to Ashdown Eye Care while the New Construction Award went to Diamond Bank.

The Small Business Award was presented to Jim’s Place but Carol Runs’ It. The Large Business of the Year Award went to Farm Credit Services of Western Arkansas.

The School, Community or Non-profit Organization of the year was presented to the Ashdown Community Library and librarian Maureen Nations. The Clayton Castleman Public Service Award was presented to Tammy Waters.

The Steve Pearce Citizen of the Year Award was presented to current Chamber President Danny Young.

Also in November, Boyd Kennemore took the reins as the new Ashdown Police Department Chief following the retirement on Mark Ardwin.

“I am very excited about this opportunity,” Kennemore said. “I enjoy what I do and look forward to continuing to serve the people of Ashdown.

“I look forward to continuing to work with the citizens of Ashdown and continue to make this a great place to live, work and raise a family,” Kennemore continued. “We will continue to work with the sheriff’s office, the state police and any other law enforcement agency and help them any way possible to keep our citizens safe.”